LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe tried to put to rest speculation that he was entertaining an offer from SMU, saying Wednesday reports of his departure were "total fiction."
Kragthorpe said he was "100 percent committed" to the Cardinals, though the defending Big East champions have tumbled from out of the preseason Top 10 to the bottom of the conference. Louisville (5-6) will need to beat Rutgers next Thursday to hold onto any remote hope of making a bowl game for the 10th straight season.
"I'm not going anyplace," Kragthorpe said. "I'm not interested in any other job. I'm committed to taking this team and this program back to the championship level."
Kragthorpe said he felt compelled to come forward after seeing published reports that said he was considering taking the head coaching job at SMU. SMU athletic director Steve Orsini did not immediately return a call for comment. The Mustangs fired coach Phil Bennett in October, effective at the end of the season.
"I'm not interested in going someplace else," he said. "I know you've heard that before, but I can guarantee you I'm not leaving the University of Louisville.
"Certainly there have been some challenges with some off-the-field situations that I did not anticipate, but we're working through those," he said.
Though Kragthorpe said he's sure there are some disgruntled fans that would like to see him go, he's not ready to shy away from the high expectations that come with inheriting a program coming off its first Bowl Championship Series berth. The high expectations were among the reasons he decided to leave Tulsa and replace Bobby Petrino just days after the Cardinals won the Orange Bowl in January.
"I want to be here for the rest of my career, hopefully that's a long, long time and certainly I know I've got to win some games for that to happen," said Kragthorpe, who is in the first year of a five-year deal that pays him $1.1 million annually.
Wins have been hard to come by for a team expected to compete for another conference title. Though quarterback Brian Brohm has been spectacular at times, the Cardinals have been undone by a leaky defense that is 81st in the nation in yards allowed. Louisville has lost at home to Syracuse and Utah and was pounded 55-17 by South Florida last week, its worst defeat in nearly two decades.
"The easy thing for me to do would be to leave, to just pick up and leave, but that's not the way I am, that's not the way I was raised," Kragthorpe said. "My parents raised me to never back down from a fight and I'll never back down from a fight and I've certainly got a fight on my hands, no doubt about it."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press